Thursday, July 28, 2016

Opinion: Have we lost our way in America? by Rob Sampson


Every so often, I will hear from someone who is upset with the way Democrats and Republicans seem to constantly be at odds.   I thought since this month has been relatively quiet from state government standpoint, this is a good opportunity to address that topic.
Every candidate for political office has their own reasons for getting involved.  For me, it’s been my desire to protect and defend the fundamental principles America was founded upon, those that make us great and have led to our success and quality of life.  I want to be sure future generations have the same opportunities we have had.
A political campaign at any level is always an ordeal and those that have done it or have been close to those who have, family members, campaign staff and volunteers, would attest to the emotional roller coaster it can be.  For sure it can be fun and exciting!  There are always great days where the press reports the story just the way you see it, or someone might praise your efforts while you are on their doorstep.  There are bad days too, your opponent might make outrageous false claims about you or a reporter will ignore the points you explained to them when writing a story, or maybe it just rains on you when you are out door knocking far from the car.
The point is that it’s a lot of work and stress to run for office and take it from me, it doesn’t just go away when you get elected.  Because I have done it a few times now and know exactly what it takes, I have a natural respect for those that take the plunge, regardless of their politics or their political party.  Certainly on the local or state level, there is not a lot of money or fame to be had so the motivation must have its roots in a desire to change and improve the world we live in.
I can honestly say that I believe that is true of most everyone regardless of the political party that they choose to identify with.  It’s also why I find rhetoric in politics so frustrating.  Does anyone really think that there is a candidate out there who wants to make our education system worse, or hurt our economy, doesn’t care about victims of domestic violence, or wants to dirty the water?   Of course not! – but time and again, you will see and hear these statements or claims made.
That being said, there are certainly laws that are passed, and policies adopted that have negative results.  One needs only think of our current financial state here in Connecticut.
That’s why I try as much as I can not to ascribe motivation to the decisions and positions of my colleagues.   I honestly don’t know what Governor Malloy thinks.  I only know that it’s clear to me that his policies of repeated tax hikes and his management are a drain on our economy.
Most people are surprised when I explain to them that nearly 75% of bills that pass the House do so unanimously or nearly so.  The fact is that much of what we do is not partisan or controversial.  Much of it is simply about the functioning of our state government.  Ideas are presented, measured, debated and adopted and more often than not, we make good choices.
The thing about that is that it’s not news.  You aren’t likely to pick up the paper and read a headline that says that everyone got along and agreed on some issue.  Yet, it happens regularly and for the most part we do work together and get along.
However, it’s also true that there are significant philosophical differences among us and they can result in vigorous debates and heightened passions on all sides.   I think this is a good thing.  I would be really concerned if we were debating something as important as abortion, or gun control, or the death penalty and there were not differing views and strong opinions.
I want my elected representatives to have strong values and principles and I want them to stand by them.  To me, that is a sign of a strong character.  Some issues have no middle ground and that is ok.  I don’t want to vote for someone who will compromise on a promise not to increase taxes, or believes that we should use the death penalty on even days but not odd ones, etc.
In recent years, there has been an increasing call for elected representatives to compromise on every issue.  This is the same imperative that seems to be manifesting itself in our culture as Americans.   It’s the idea that somehow forcing people with strong and differing opinions to like things they don’t creates a peaceful society.  That’s simply ridiculous and will only end with bitterness and resentment.
America was founded upon the principles of liberty, responsibility and self-government.  For me, this translates into the freedom to make choices.  “Choices” includes not just the big things like what religion we follow, or little things like whether we prefer chocolate to vanilla but also important and controversial things like how we might feel about abortion, or the right to own a gun, or how we feel about those that choose a different lifestyle, gay, transgender, etc.
In yesterday’s America, we were free to choose our opinions and even voice them with the understanding that we didn’t have to agree or like anything simply because others wanted you to.  This came with a huge caveat of course – and that is the fundamental concept of respect.  For instance, you might disagree with someone else’s view of religion or sexuality but you would also understand that they had the same rights as you to express their view.
In my view, that is a far better way to live.  Increasingly, respect for one another is fading.  We are being taught that you have to like things you don’t like and to dare not to is somehow intolerant or even un-American.
This change in attitude is sewing large divisions of anger and hostility in our society where political and social differences are seen as oppressive and threatening to those in the minority and conversely, any dissent must be wiped out as evil by the majority.   The daily news is filled with examples.
An unfortunate effect of this cultural change is increased government power and consequently less freedom.  The recent debate over genderless bathrooms is a perfect example.   My good friend Senator Joe Markley likes to say that for thousands of years this has not been an issue – people always seemed to know which bathroom to use!  What changed!
One thing that changed is that state governments across the country, including our own, are deciding that we cannot figure these things out for ourselves.  They are picking sides and telling those that disagree that their freedom to do so is no longer valid.
Issues regarding race, gender identity, income status, attitudes towards the police, even what kind of light bulbs you can buy all are being treated similarly and I believe it is a dangerous trend.
If we can’t decide that we are going to get along via mutual respect for our differences rather than a forced tolerance, America’s future is in jeopardy.  More laws will be passed and more individual freedoms and choices will be lost.

Rob Sampson
State Representative - 80th District

State Rep. Rob Sampson
800-842-1423 (Toll Free)
860-240-8700 (Local)
860-240-0207 (Fax)
Legislative Office Building
300 Capitol Ave.
Room 4200
Hartford, CT 06106

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